The planned Islandmagee Energy gas storage facility, off the coast of Northern Ireland, has been awarded a Marine Construction Licence, allowing it to proceed towards construction. The storage facility will not be available for this winter or the next, however, as Islandmagee Energy’s parent company, Harland & Wolff, estimates construction will take around 36 months once a final investment decision has been taken.
It said pre enabling works had commenced on site but more detail on a likely in-service date would not be known until a cavern construction strategy had been completed.
The gas storage project will initially unlock seven gas storage caverns that will hold around 500 million cubic metres of natural gas – covering peak demand for up to 14 days for Northern Ireland and adding 25% to the UK’s storage capacity.
John Wood, Group CEO of Islandmagee Energy’s parent company, Harland & Wolff, said: “We are delighted with this major step forward in the project’s journey, paving the way for the construction of our facilities. We look forward to playing a greater role within the energy sector and in securing a safer future for all.”
Islandmagee Energy also has longer term ambitions to store hydrogen. The company said that might mean either converting the seven caverns or opening new ones and “both options are under consideration”.
Across the Irish Sea
The storage can aid the GB market because gas flows between GB and both Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic via gas pipelines that connect in to Moffat in Scotland.
Gas has largely been sent from GB to Ireland in the past, but in recent years the Republic of Ireland has had direct access to gas from the Corrib field.
However, according to National Grid Gas, in its recent Winter Outlook Report, declines in production from Corrib have combined with increases in gas demand to increase exports from GB to Ireland.
Exports from GB rose by 0.3 billion cubic metres (bcm) last year to 3.3bcm and they have been consistently rising over the last five years – in 2016 export was 1.6bcm.
National Grid Gas said the growing demand was for electricity generation, naming specifically the power required to serve a number of new data centres.
Irish reports say there are now 53 operational data centres in Ireland, with eight under construction and 26 with planning approval. The expansion has coincided with closure of peat-fuelled generating stations.